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Mr. and Mrs. Nichol here as soon as can be. I suppose I had better see
the captain a few moments and then take Helen home."

Martine led the way into the other apartment, where Nichol, rendered
good-natured by his supper and a cigar, was conversing sociably with
the landlord. Mr. Kemble fairly trembled as he came forward,
involuntarily expecting that the man so well known to him must give
some sign of recognition.

Nichol paid no heed to him. He had been too long accustomed to see
strangers coming and going to give them either thought or attention.

"I say, Hob't Ma'tine," he began, "don' yer cuss me fer eatin' all the
supper. I 'lowed ter this Jackson, as yer call 'im, that yer'd get a
bite somewhar else, en he 'lowed yer would."

"All right, Nichol; I'm glad you had a good supper."

"I say, Jackson, this Ma'tine's a cur'ous chap - mo cur'ous than I be, I
reckon. He's been actin' cur'ous ever since he seed me in the
horspital. It's all cur'ous. 'Fore he come, doctors en folks was trying
ter fin' out 'bout me, en this Ma'tine 'lows he knows all 'bout me. Ef
he wuzn't so orful glum, he'd be a good chap anuff, ef he is cur'ous.
Hit's all a-changin' somehow, en yet' tisn't. Awhile ago nobody knowd
'bout me, en they wuz allus a-pesterin' of me with questions. En now
Ma'tine en you 'low you know 'bout me, yet you ast questions jes' the
same. Like anuff this man yere," pointing with his cigar to Mr. Kemble,
who was listening with a deeply-troubled face, "knows 'bout me too, yet
wants to ast questions. I don' keer ef I do say it, I had better times
with the Johnnies that call me Yankee Blank than I ever had sence.
Well, ole duffer [to Mr. Kemble], ast away and git yer load off'n yer
mind. I don't like glum faces roun' en folks jes' nachelly bilin' over
with questions."

"No, Captain Nichol," said the banker, gravely and sadly, "I've no
questions to ask. Good-by for the present."

Nichol nodded a careless dismissal and resumed his reminiscences with
Jackson, whose eager curiosity and readiness to laugh were much more to
his mind.

Following the noise made by closing the door, Helen's voice rang up
from the hall below, "Papa!"

"Yes, I'm coming, dear," he tried to answer cheerily. Then he wrung
Martine's hand and whispered, "Send for Dr. Barnes. God knows you
should have relief. Tell Jackson also to have a carriage go for Mr.
Nichol at once. After the doctor comes you may leave all in our hands.
Good-by."

Martine heard the rustle of a lady's dress and retired precipitately.




CHAPTER X

"YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND"


With an affectation of briskness he was far from feeling, Mr. Kemble
came down the stairs and joined his daughter in the hall. He had taken
pains to draw his hat well over his eyes, anticipating and dreading her
keen scrutiny, but, strange to say, his troubled demeanor passed
unnoticed. In the interval of waiting Helen's thoughts had taken a new
turn. "Well, papa," she began, as they passed into the street, "I am
curious to know about the sick man. You stayed an age, but all the same
I'm glad I came with you. Forebodings, presentiments, and all that kind
of thing seemed absurd the moment I saw Jackson's keen, mousing little
visage. His very voice is like a ray of garish light entering a dusky,
haunted room. Things suggesting ghosts and hobgoblins become
ridiculously prosaic, and you are ashamed of yourself and your fears."

"Yes, yes," replied Mr. Kemble, yielding to irritation in his deep
perplexity, "the more matter-of-fact we are the better we're off. I
suppose the best thing to do is just to face what happens and try to be
brave."

"Well, papa, what's happened to annoy you to-night? Is this sick man
going to make you trouble?"

"Like enough. I hope not. At any rate, he has claims which I must meet."

"Don't you think you can meet them?" was her next anxious query, her
mind reverting to some financial obligation.

"We'll see. You and mother'll have to help me out, I guess. I'll tell
you both when we get home;" and his sigh was so deep as to be almost a
groan.

"Papa," said Helen, earnestly pressing his arm, "don't worry. Mamma and
I will stand by you; so will Hobart. He is the last one in the world to
desert one in any kind of trouble."

"I know that, no one better; but I fear he'll be in deeper trouble than
any of us. The exasperating thing is that there should be any trouble
at all. If it had only happened before - well, well, I can't talk here
in the street. As you say, you must stand by me, and I'll do the best I
can by you and all concerned."

"Oh, papa, there was good cause for my foreboding."

"Well, yes, and no. I don't know. I'm at my wits' end. If you'll be
brave and sensible, you can probably do more than any of us."

"Papa, papa, something IS the matter with Hobart," and she drew him
hastily into the house, which they had now reached.

Mrs. Kemble met them at the door. Alarmed at her husband's troubled
face, she exclaimed anxiously, "Who is this man? What did he want?"

"Come now, mother, give me a chance to get my breath. We'll close the
doors, sit down, and talk it all over."

Mrs. Kemble and her daughter exchanged an apprehensive glance and
followed with the air of being prepared for the worst.

The banker sat down and wiped the perspiration from his brow, then
looked dubiously at the deeply anxious faces turned toward him. "Well,"
he said, "I'm going to tell you everything as far as I understand it.
Now I want to see if you two can't listen calmly and quietly and not
give way to useless feeling. There's much to be done, and you
especially, Helen, must be in the right condition to do it."

"Oh, papa, why torture me so? Something HAS happened to Hobart. I can't
endure this suspense."

"Something has happened to us all," replied her father, gravely.
"Hobart has acted like a hero, like a saint; so must you. He is as well
and able to go about as you are. I've seen him and talked with him."

"He saw you and not me?" cried the girl, starting up.

"Helen, I entreat, I command you to be composed and listen patiently.
Don't you know him well enough to be sure he had good reasons - "

"I can't imagine a reason," was the passionate reply, as she paced the
floor. "What reason could keep me from him? Merciful Heaven! father,
have you forgotten that I was to marry him to-day? Well," she added
hoarsely, standing before him with hands clinched in her effort at
self-restraint, "the reason?"

"Poor fellow! poor fellow! he has not forgotten it," groaned Mr.
Kemble. "Well, I might as well out with it. Suppose Captain Nichol was
not killed after all?"

Helen sank into a chair as if struck down as Nichol had been himself.
"What!" she whispered; and her face was white indeed.

Mrs. Kemble rushed to her husband, demanding, "Do you mean to tell us
that Captain Nichol is alive?"

"Yes; that's just the question we've got to face."

"It brings up another question," replied his wife, sternly. "If he's
been alive all this time, why did he not let us know? As far as I can
make out, Hobart has found him in Washington - "

"Helen," cried her father to the trembling girl, "for Heaven's sake, be
calm!"

"He's alive, ALIVE!" she answered, as if no other thought could exist
in her mind. Her eyes were kindling, the color coming into her face,
and her bosom throbbed quickly as if her heart would burst its bonds.
Suddenly she rushed to her father, exclaiming, "He was the sick man.
Oh, why did you not let me see him?"

"Well, well!" ejaculated Mr. Kemble, "Hobart was right, poor fellow!
Yes, Helen, Captain Nichol is the sick man, not dangerously ill,
however. You are giving ample reason why you should not see him yet;
and I tell you plainly you can't see him till you are just as composed
as I am."

She burst into a joyous, half-hysterical laugh as she exclaimed,
"That's not asking much. I never saw you so moved, papa. Little wonder!
The dead is alive again! Oh, papa, papa, you don't understand me at
all! Could I hear such tidings composedly - I who have wept so many long
nights and days over his death? I must give expression to overwhelming
feeling here where it can do no harm, but if I had seen him - when I do
see him - ah! he'll receive no harm from me."

"But, Helen, think of Hobart," cried Mrs. Kemble, in sharp distress.

"Mother, mother, I cannot help it. Albert is alive, ALIVE! The old
feeling comes back like the breaking up of the fountains of the great
deep. You cannot know, cannot understand; Hobart will. I'm sorry, SORRY
for him; but he will understand. I thought Albert was dead; I wanted to
make Hobart happy. He was so good and kind and deserving that I did
love him in a sincere, quiet way, but not with my first love, not as I
loved Albert. I thought my love was buried with him; but it has burst
the grave as he has. Papa, papa, let me go to him, now, NOW! You say he
is sick; it is my place to nurse him back to life. Who has a better
right? Why do you not bring him here?"

"Perhaps it will be best, since Helen feels so," said Mr. Kemble,
looking at his wife.

"Well, I don't know," she replied with a deep sigh. "We certainly don't
wish the public to be looking on any more than we can help. He should
be either here or at his own home."

"There's more reason for what you say than you think," Mr. Kemble began.

"There, papa," interrupted Helen, "I'd be more or less than human if I
could take! this undreamed-of news quietly, I can see how perplexed and
troubled you've been, and how you've kindly tried to prepare me for the
tidings. You will find that I have strength of mind to meet all that is
required of me. It is all simpler to me than to you, for in a matter of
this kind the heart is the guide, indeed, the only guide. Think! If
Albert had come back months ago; if Hobart had brought him back wounded
and disabled - how would we have acted? Only our belief in his death led
to what has happened since, and the fact of life changes everything
back to - "

"Now, Helen, stop and listen to me," said her father, firmly. "In one
sense the crisis is over, and you've heard the news which I scarcely
knew how to break to you. You say you will have strength of mind to
meet what is required of you. I trust you may. But it's time you
understood the situation as far as I do. Mother's words show she's off
the track in her suspicion. Nichol is not to blame in any sense. He is
deserving of all sympathy, and yet - oh, dear, it is such a
complication!" and the old man groaned as he thought of the personality
who best knew himself as Yankee Blank. "The fact is," he resumed to his
breathless listeners, "Nichol is not ill at all physically. His mind is
affected - "

Mrs. Kemble sank back in her chair, and Helen uttered a cry of dismay.

"Yes, his mind is affected peculiarly. He remembers nothing that
happened before he was wounded. You must realize this, Helen; you must
prepare yourself for it. His loss of memory is much more sad than if he
had lost an arm or a leg. He remembers only what he has picked up since
his injury."

"Then, then, he's not insane?" gasped Helen.

"No, no, I should say not," replied her father, dubiously; "yet his
words and manner produce much the same effect as if he were - even a
stronger effect."

"Oh, this is dreadful!" cried his wife.

"Dreadful indeed, but not hopeless, you know. Keep in mind doctors say
that his memory may come back at any time; and Hobart has the belief
that the sight and voice of Helen will bring it back."

"God bless Hobart," said Helen, with a deep breath, "and God help him!
His own love inspired that belief. He's right; I know he's right."

"Well, perhaps he is. I don't know. I thought Nichol would recognize
me; but there wasn't a sign."

"Oh, papa," cried Helen, smiling through her tears, "there are some
things which even your experience and wisdom fail in. Albert will know
me. We have talked long enough; now let us act."

"You don't realize it all yet, Helen; you can't. You must remember that
Nichol regained consciousness in a Southern hospital. He has learned to
talk and act very much like such soldiers as would associate with him."

"The fact that he's alive and that I now may restore him is enough,
papa."

"Well, I want Dr. Barnes present when you meet him."

"Certainly; at least within call."

"I must stipulate too," said Mrs. Kemble. "I don't wish the coming
scenes to take place in a hotel, and under the eyes of that gossip,
Jackson. I don't see why Hobart took him there."

"I do," said Mr. Kemble, standing up for his favorite. "Hobart has
already endured more than mortal man ought, yet he has been most
delicately considerate. No one but Jackson and Dr. Barnes know about
Nichol and his condition. I have also had Nichol's father and mother
sent for on my own responsibility, for they should take their share of
the matter. Hobart believes that Helen can restore Nichol's memory.
This would simplify everything and save many painful impressions. You
see, it's such an obscure trouble, and there should be no ill-advised
blundering in the matter. The doctors in Washington told Hobart that a
slight shock, or the sight of an object that once had the strongest
hold upon his thoughts - well, you understand."

"Yes," said Helen, "I DO understand. Hobart is trying to give Albert
the very best chance. Albert wrote that his last earthly thoughts would
be of me. It is but natural that my presence should kindle those
thoughts again. It was like Hobart, who is almost divine in his
thoughtfulness of others, to wish to shield Albert from the eyes of
even his own father and mother until he could know them, and know us
all. He was only taken to the hotel that we all might understand and be
prepared to do our part. Papa, bring Albert here and let his father and
mother come here also. He should be sacredly shielded in his infirmity,
and give a every chance to recover before being seen by others; and
please, papa, exact from Jackson a solemn promise not to tattle about
Albert."

"Yes, yes; but we have first a duty to perform. Mother, please prepare
a little lunch, and put a glass of your old currant wine on the tray.
Hobart must not come to a cold, cheerless home. I'll go and have his
old servant up and ready to receive him."

"No, mamma, that is still my privilege," said Helen, with a rush, of
tears. "Oh, I'm so sorry, SORRY for him! but neither he nor I can help
or change what is, what's true."

When the tray was ready, she wrote and sealed these words:

"God bless you, Hobart; God reward you! You have made me feel to-night
that earth is too poor, and only heaven rich enough to reward you.

"HELEN."




CHAPTER XI

MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL


It often happens that the wife's disposition is an antidote to her
husband: and this was fortunately true of Mrs. Jackson. She was neither
curious nor gossiping, and with a quick instinct that privacy was
desired by Martine, gave at an early hour her orders to close the house
for the night. The few loungers, knowing that she was autocratic,
slouched off to other resorts. The man and maids of all work were kept
out of the way, while she and her husband waited on their unexpected
guests. After Mr. Kemble's departure, the errand-boy was roused from
his doze behind the stove and seat for Dr. Barnes; then Jackson wrote
another note at Martine's dictation:

"MR. WILLIAM NICHOL:

"DEAR SIR - A relative of yours is sick at my house. He came on the
evening train. You and your wife had better come at once in the
carriage."

Martine retired to the room in which he had seen Mr. Kemble, that he
might compose himself before meeting the physician. The sound of
Helen's voice, the mere proximity of the girl who at this hour was to
have been his wife had not "old chaos" come again for him, were by no
means "straws" in their final and crushing weight. Motionless, yet with
mind verging on distraction, he sat in the cold, dimly lighted room
until aroused by the voice of Dr. Barnes.

"Why, Hobart!" cried his old friend, starting at the bloodshot eyes and
pallid face of the young man, "what is the matter? You need me, sure
enough, but why on earth are you shivering in this cold room at the
hotel?"

Martine again said to Jackson: "Don't leave him," and closed the door.
Then, to the physician: "Dr. Barnes, I am ill and worn-out. I know it
only too well. You must listen carefully while I in brief tell you why
you were sent for; then you and others must take charge and act as you
think best. I'm going home. I must have rest and a respite. I must be
by myself;" and he rapidly began to sketch his experiences in
Washington.

"Hold!" said the sensible old doctor, who indulged in only a few strong
exclamations of surprise, which did not interrupt the speaker, "hold!
You say you left the ward to think it over, after being convinced that
you had discovered Nichol. Did you think it over quietly?"

"Quietly!" repeated Martine, with intense bitterness. "Would a man, not
a mummy, think over such a thing quietly? Judge me as you please, but I
was tempted as I believe never man was before. I fought the Devil till
morning."

"I thought as much," said the doctor, grasping Martine's hand, then
slipping a finger on his pulse. "You fought on foot too, didn't you?"

"Yes, I walked the streets as if demented."

"Of course. That in part accounts for your exhaustion. Have you slept
much since?"

"Oh, Doctor, let me get through and go home!"

"No, Hobart, you can't get through with me till I am with you. My dear
fellow, do you think that I don't understand and sympathize with you?
There's no reason why you should virtually risk your life for Captain
Nichol again. Take this dose of quinine at once, and then proceed. I
can catch on rapidly. First answer, how much have you slept since?"

"The idea of sleep! You can remedy this, Doctor, after my part in this
affair is over. I must finish now. Helen may return, and I cannot meet
her, nor am I equal to seeing Mr. and Mrs. Nichol. My head feels queer,
but I'll get through somehow, if the strain is not kept up too long;"
and he finished in outline his story. In conclusion he said, "You will
understand that you are now to have charge of Nichol. He is prepared by
his experience to obey you, for he has always been in hospitals, where
the surgeon's will is law. Except with physicians, he has a sort of
rough waywardness, learned from the soldiers."

"Yes, I understand sufficiently now to manage. You put him in my
charge, then go home, and I'll visit you as soon as I can."

"One word more, Doctor. As far as you think best, enjoin reticence on
Jackson. If the sight of Helen restores Nichol, as I believe it will,
little need ever be said about his present condition. Jackson would not
dare to disobey a physician's injunction."

"Don't you dare disobey them, either. I'll manage him too. Come."

Nichol had slept a good deal during the latter part of his journey, and
now was inclined to wakefulness - a tendency much increased by his habit
of waiting on hospital patients at night. In the eager and curious
Jackson he had a companion to his mind, who stimulated in him a certain
child-like vanity.

"Hello, Ma'tine," he said, "ye're gittin' tired o' me, I reckon, ye're
off so much. I don't keer. This yere Jackson's a lively cuss, en I 'low
we'll chin till mawnin'."

"Yes, Nichol, Mr. Jackson is a good friend of yours; and here is
another man who is more than a friend. You remember what the surgeon at
the hospital said to you?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously. "Hain't I minded yer tetotally?"

"Yes, you have done very well indeed - remarkably well, since you knew I
was not a doctor. Now this man is a doctor - the doctor I was to bring
you to. You won't have to mind me any more, but you must mind this man,
Dr. Barnes, in all respects, just as you did the doctors in the
hospitals. As long as you obey him carefully he will be very good to
you."

"Oh, I'll mind, Doctor," said Nichol, rising and assuming the
respectful attitude of a hospital nurse. "We uns wuz soon larned that't
wuzn't healthy to go agin the doctor. When I wuz Yankee Blank, 'fo' I
got ter be cap'n, I forgot ter give a Johnny a doze o' med'cine, en I'm
doggoned ef the doctor didn't mek me tek it myse'f. Gee wiz! sech a
time ez I had! Hain't give the doctors no trouble sence."

"All right, Captain Nichol," said Dr. Barnes, quietly, "I understand my
duties, and I see that you understand yours. As you say, doctors must
be obeyed, and I already see that you won't make me or yourself any
trouble. Good-night, Hobart, I'm in charge now."

"Good-night, Doctor. Mr. Jackson, I'm sure you will carry out Dr.
Barnes' wishes implicitly."

"Yer'd better, Jackson," said Nichol, giving him a wink. "A doctor kin
give yer high ole jinks ef ye're not keerful."

Martine now obeyed the instinct often so powerful in the human breast
as well as in dumb animals, and sought the covert, the refuge of his
home, caring little whether he was to live or die. When he saw the
lighted windows of Mr. Kemble's residence, he moaned as if in physical
pain. A sudden and immeasurable longing to see, to speak with Helen
once before she was again irrevocably committed to Nichol, possessed
him. He even went to her gate to carry out his impulse, then curbed
himself and returned resolutely to his dwelling. As soon as his step
was on the porch, the door opened and Mr. Kemble gave him the warm
grasp of friendship. Without a word, the two men entered the
sitting-room, sat down by the ruddy fire, and looked at each other,
Martine with intense, questioning anxiety in his haggard face. The
banker nodded gravely as he said, "Yes, she knows."

"It's as I said it would be?" Martine added huskily, after a moment or
two.

"Well, my friend, she said you would understand her better than any one
else. She wrote you this note."

Martine's hands so trembled that he could scarcely break the seal. He
sat looking at the tear-blurred words some little time, and grew
evidently calmer, then faltered, "Yes, it's well to remember God at
such a time. He has laid heavy burdens upon me. He is responsible for
them, not I. If I break, He also will be responsible."

"Hobart," said Mr. Kemble, earnestly, "you must not break under this,
for our sake as well as your own. I have the presentiment that we shall
all need you yet, my poor girl perhaps most of all. She doesn't, she
can't realize it. Now, the dead is alive again. Old girlish impulses
and feelings are asserting themselves. As is natural, she is deeply
excited; but this tidal wave of feeling will pass, and then she will
have to face both the past and future. I know her well enough to be
sure she could never be happy if this thing wrecked you. And then,
Hobart," and the old man sank his voice to a whisper, "suppose - suppose
Nichol continues the same."

"He cannot," cried Martine, almost desperately. "Oh, Mr. Kemble, don't
suggest any hope for me. My heart tells me there is none, that there
should not be any. No, she loved him as I have loved her from
childhood. She is right. I do understand her so well that I know what
the future will be."

"Well," said Mr. Kemble, firmly, as he rose, "she shall never marry him
as he is, with my consent. I don't feel your confidence about Helen's
power to restore him. I tell you, Hobart, I'm in sore straits. Helen is
the apple of my eye. She is the treasure of our old age. God knows I
remember what you have done for her and for us in the past; and I feel
that we shall need you in the future. You've become like a son to
mother and me, and you must stand by us still. Our need will keep you
up and rally you better than all Dr. Barnes' medicine. I know you well
enough to know that. But take the medicine all the same; and above all
things, don't give way to anything like recklessness and despair. As
you say, God has imposed the burden. Let him give you the strength to
bear it, and other people's burdens too, as you have in the past. I
must go now. Don't fail me."

Wise old Mr. Kemble had indeed proved the better physician. His
misgivings, fears, and needs, combined with his honest affection, had
checked the cold, bitter flood of despair which had been overwhelming
Martine. The morbid impression that he would be only another
complication, and of necessity an embarrassment to Helen and her
family, was in a measure removed. Mere words of general condolence
would not have helped him; an appeal like that to the exhausted
soldier, and the thought that the battle for him was not yet over,
stirred the deep springs of his nature and slowly kindled the purpose
to rally and be ready. He rose, ate a little of the food, drank the


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